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Archive for June, 2010

APSCUF President, Steve Hicks responds to Harrisburg Patriot-News editorial about PASSHE taking “necessary steps.”  Kudos to Hicks for beginning his response like this:

In your June 23 editorial on Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education’s “necessary steps,” you begin with a false statement: “Any business has to offer products and services that customers want at the right price or it will not survive.” 

The State System is not a business, our students are not consumers and degrees are not a product. Even if your statement was true, a dozen years of record enrollments indicate that the universities are succeeding.

Here’s Hicks’s full response:

Budget knife cuts deep into State System | PennLive.com.

University not a Factory

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In this June 17th edition of APSCUF Update, APSCUF President Steve Hicks reports on retrenchment, low-enrolled programs, PA budget, and pension reform.

Here’s the link: APSCUF Update 6-17-10

I was very pleased to read Hicks’s thoughts on APSCUF-KU’s work on retrenchment.  In the midst of all the bad news, it feels good to have some kudos thrown our way.  Thanks Steve.

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take the money and runYet more evidence that PASSHE uses “budget crisis” selectively.  For those of you who do not know, Tony Atwater, IUP’s former President, was recently forced to resign following a faculty “no confidence” vote.

Apparently, PASSHE is not saying one way or another why Atwater left/was asked to leave.  However, the article below from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review shows how generous PASSHE can be do one of their own.  Enjoy your new vacation home, Tony.

Atwater’s sweet deal: Outrageous! – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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Last week some, but apparent ly not all, faculty were sent a draft copy of PASSHE’s list of all the programs under review at the 14 PASSHE universities.  While the document may not be new to Kutztown’s faculty, I wanted to make sure that I put it up so it is available publicly for anyone who wants to check it out.  The document is dated June 14, 2010:

List of Lower Enrolled Programs Under Review:
June 14 2010 actions

One of the things that you’ll begin to notice is that several majors, such as French, Physics, and Philosophy are under review in some capacity across the state system.  I think it makes sense to look at this document as an artifact for some PASSHE’s plans for remaking Pennsylvania’s education system.  While most of us at PASSHE institutions have been primarily focused on the administration’s attack on faculty jobs and academic programs, it seems critical to situate our local struggles within the entire PASSHE system as to not miss the forest for the trees.

As PASSHE moves to remake the state university system we have been pushing to make local and state administrators be transparent in their decision-making process.  If you have been following discussions here you already know they have been inconsistent at best in doing so.

A few days ago I was handed an interesting document concerning PASSHE’s plans.  The document is a 1993 PASSHE Board of Governor’s “System Directive” concerning “Academic Program Moratorium and Termination.”  From what I understand, this document is still in force.  It’s interesting in that it is a DIRECTIVE from the Board of Governors for how program moratorium and termination is supposed to proceed.  The document may prove useful in holding our university administrations to their own rules.   Locally, we have already found evidence that our local administration has not followed the Board of Governor’s directive in some instances.  I’ll try to keep you up to date on how this plays out.

In any case, here is the document:

PASSHE BoG Directive on Moratorium and Termination 2-15-93

So, that’s my info for the day.  Stay cool in this heat!

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As most XChange readers already know, this past spring I was elected as the next APSCUF-KU Vice President.  My term officially began on June 1st and I’ve spent a good portion of June working on the transition.  Over the course of this next year, I hope share some of my thoughts with you regarding what I think about the direction of our local, the importance of membership mobilization, and thoughts on the “health” of our local.  I also hope you will share your comments, suggestions, critiques as well.  However, given that my primary purpose in starting the XChange was to facilitate critical member-to-member discussion and to provide a venue for “unofficial” communication (that is, what’s posted here does not seek approval from local or State APSCUF or any other body), I will do my best to not turn this blog into a “voice of the local.”  Once again, what I post here reflects my position on issues.  While I would be a fool to believe that my perspective will not be influenced by my new role as APSCUF-KU Vice President, I will do my best to be conscious of that influence (and I hope all of you will assist me in that capacity).

Today our APSCUF-KU Executive Committee will meet to continue planning our strategies concerning retrenchment as well as mobilization for this contract negotiations year.  We decided to include members of the out-going Exec as well as newly elected members, some of whose terms do not begin until September.  I think it goes without saying that it is important to formally include as many people in leadership decisions of a union local as possible.  I also recognize that this is one of the greatest challenges any local faces–to keep members actively engaged in their union’s governance.

One of my hobby-horses this year will be to press this issue of member activism and participation in governance.  And, for that matter, to expand our local’s conscious understanding of leadership.  Over the past eight years of my involvement in APSCUF-KU, there are two issues that have continually frustrated me.  The first is that members–including members of APSCUF-KU Exec and Representative Council–think of our local leadership as  the APSCUF-KU President (and sometimes the Vice President).  While the president clearly has an important leadership role, the entire Executive Committee and the entire Representative Council constitute the local leadership.  In my mind, it is critical that these leadership bodies actively assume their leadership roles and not wait to be told what to do or serve simply to affirm or criticize the actions of the president.

The second issue has to do with the dominant patterns of communication among members and between members and the local leadership.  I have been in countless meetings (both union meetings and academic meetings) at which participants are skillful in raising issues, critiques, problems, or injustices.  However, many times those critiques just hang in the air waiting for someone else to do something about them.  Depending on the context, that “someone else” might be “the administration,” the “union leadership,” the “department Chair,” or just “someone else.”   I want to be careful as to not overstate my case, but I’ve found this dynamic especially frustrating at KU.

While the tendency to criticize an issue and wait for “someone else” to take up the labor is certainly not limited to Kutztown University, I have always been part of groups at other institutions who had a kind of DIY ethic.  That is, I’ve generally been surrounded by people who, when faced with a problem, tended to immediately begin to generate creative solutions without waiting to be given permission.  In those contexts, we always felt a sense of ownership of the issue–and a kind of core belief that “if you want to get something done, you’ve got to do it yourself.”

In the spring of 2009, I was in San Francisco for the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication.  Thanks to facebook and one of my old college friends, Andrew McFarland, I got together with a few of my punk rock friends from back in my Syracuse days who had migrated West over the years.  Andrew’s efforts to arrange a kind of reunion, also lead to several virtual conversations with old Syracuse friends over facebook and email.  What became so clear in those conversations was that every single one of us still carried that ethic–the punk DIY ethic through our lives.  We pursued vastly different “career paths,” but each of those people–each of us–still echoed the same kind of DIY spirit that we brought to the Syracuse scene in the late 80s and 90s.

What’s amazing about that DIY ethic is that it is hopeful–a basic belief in the creative labor of self-organizing groups–affinity groups, if you will.  While our frustrations were deep, we tended to gravitate toward possibilities–whether those possibilities included putting on shows, carrying out “guerrilla art” campaigns, building shanty towns on university campuses, occupying administration buildings, living collectively, or starting our own independent zines and newspapers.  And we did these things.  They weren’t just ideas.  We created and built and produced.

I don’t mean to turn this post into a nostalgic trip.  That’s not the point.  And, frankly, I’ve been part of groups of people like this since I was in high school.  I was part of groups like this in grad school in Southwest Ohio and during my three years working as an adjunct in Washington, DC.  Kutztown is the first place that I’ve been where I struggle to find this kind of community.  The odd thing about that for me is that we are unionized.  We have a democratic structure within which to fashion our working lives.

Over the next two years, I am going to devote myself to preaching (so to speak) this DIY ethic in hopes that as a union, we as members take up our “leadership” roles–given to us not by the outcomes of a vote, but by the fact of our membership.  On occasion, I return to the song “Direct Action” by Utah Phillipsn and Ani Difranco  for a reminder of the DIY ethic.  In it, he recounts the Spokane Free Speech Fight in 1910.  At one point he quotes Joseph Campbell on free speech:

“The state can’t give you free speech, and the state can’t take it away. You’re born with it, like your eyes, like your ears…freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free.”

In my mind, the same principle applies to political organization.  That includes union organization.

I hope we can activate some of this ethic locally and at state-wide.

As usual, I am running out of time to write…I’ve got to get my materials together for Directed Self-Placement.  Today, I have the bonus of welcoming Amy Lynch-Biniek aboard for the ride.  She’s currently the director of KU’s University Writing Center and a true leader in our Composition program.  Welcome!

Talk to y’all soon!

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Since my most recent post to the XChange containing the independent auditor’s report for KU for the year ending 2009, several people have gotten in touch with me asking if I posted this report because it was some kind of “smoking gun.”  The short answer to this question is “no.”  The more nuanced answer is, “but it might be.”  That is to say, I put these documents out because I think it’s better to have multiple eyes on them.  The more information we can put in members’ hands, the better.

Case in point: I received and email from an Accounting Professor at another PASSHE university who is doing a cross-institutional analysis of the accounting practices of different PASSHE universities.  The faculty member expects to present the findings at the Second Annual APSCUF/PSEA Conference on Labor in Higher Education this fall in Harrisburg.  As a side note, I can’t thank former APSCUF Vice President, Amy Walters, for getting this conference off the ground.  The conference encourages this kind of labor scholarship–scholarship that is immediately useful in our current struggles.  Bravo.

Access to this information is even more critical since there is VERY contradictory information out there regarding Kutztown’s and PASSHE’s “budget crisis.”  You may recall posts on the XChange earlier this year on some of the “budget crisis myths” being offered up by KU’s administration, KU’s questionable use of breakage funds, and PASSHE’s contradictory claims about the “crisis.”

The latest bit of info that points to serious contradictions in both KU’s and PASSHE’s claims about their budget crisis comes from the world of bond ratings.  Yesterday, Fitch.com released bond rating numbers for PASSHE: Fitch determined that

In addition, Fitch affirms the ‘AA’ rating on PASSHE’s $825.3 million of outstanding revenue bonds.

The Rating Outlook is Stable.

That’s nice to know.  You might also be interested in this little nugget:

Generally stable operating performance has allowed PASSHE to maintain an adequate liquidity cushion. Available funds of $958 million at the end of fiscal 2009 covered over half (53.7%) of operating expenses for that year and 103.1% of total pro forma system debt. Unlike many colleges and universities, PASSHE’s conservatively invested financial cushion increased during fiscal 2009, despite the global financial market turbulence.

Once again, there is a serious gap between the claims being made by the local and state administrations and what independent analyses suggest.  [click here to check out Fitch’s full report].

OK, I’ve got to run off and do the next round of English placement for incoming students.  Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

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Well, someone’s been slipping documents under my door again.  Yup.  I was on campus last Friday doing English Placement for incoming students and arrived back on campus this morning around 10am for the same reason.  This morning I arrived in my office to find another document had fallen out of the air onto my desk.  This time, it’s the Independent Auditor’s Report for the year ending June 30, 2009.

I have to walk across campus in a few minutes to continue English Placement for incoming students and I’ve only had about 20 minutes to scan the document. I am not sure exactly what it will tell us, but I thought it better to have as many eyes on the document as possible.  So, without out further delay, here is the report:

KU Independent Audit Report: Year Ending June 2009

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